Many local hoop heads have "Fear the Deer" fever, with the Milwaukee Bucks in a serious playoff showdown with Atlanta. But when it comes to the NBA postseason, I'm rooting for the Utah Jazz, with Madison Memorial alum Wesley Matthews starting at guard.
In game four of Utah's first-round series against Denver, Matthews logged a team-high 42 minutes and put up 18 points, five rebounds and three assists in Utah's thrilling 117-106 victory. (The Jazz led the best-of-seven series 3-1 going into Wednesday night's game in Denver.)
Five years ago, I spent many a winter night watching Matthews lead Memorial to its first state title. I was impressed not just by his athleticism, leadership and intensity, all present in abundance, but also by his all-business approach. There was never any chest-thumping or trash-talking.
Despite putting together a fine college career at Marquette, Matthews didn't get drafted last spring. He was picked up as a free agent by Utah, where he averaged just under 10 points in 25 minutes a game during the regular season. But with starters Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur sidelined with injuries, Matthews has seen his playing time surge in the playoffs.
If the Jazz eliminate the Nug-gets, they'll likely face the L.A. Lakers in the next round. And that means Matthews might be called on to defend Kobe Bryant, one of the best in the game.